One year after the horse meat scandal broke across Europe, the European Parliament on Tuesday called for more inspections of food production chains and tougher penalties for companies that commit food fraud.
The controversy began last year when DNA tests revealed that some products sold across Europe were labeled as beef but in fact contained up to 100% horsemeat.
"We need to increase the penalties and increase likelihood of being caught. For instance, in Ireland, in the horsemeat scandal, four companies were involved, three were guilty of fraud just outside the Irish jurisdiction so there was only one company which potentially could be prosecuted by the Irish authorities. The maximum fine, even if the company is prosecuted is 30000 euros, but one container of horsemeat labelled as beef would already a profit of 65000 euros, so I think the Irish example shows very clearly what needs to change in the EU, we need tougher penalties." said Dutch EPP MEP and rapporteur Esther de Lange.
MEPs also urged the Commission to agree on a harmonised pan-European definition of food fraud and asked to introduce origin labeling for meat contained in processed foods.
"Unlike the US, Commissioner, the European Union still doesn't have a common definition of food fraud and we need to get such a definition soon so that we can use that as a basis of our future work, and that's a point we're making in the Report.”said Dutch EPP MEP and rapporteur Esther de Lange.
The European Commission warned however that mandatory labeling will not stop food fraud from happening.
"We must recognize that such measures cannot be considered as a tool to prevent fraudulent practices. Indeed the horsemeat scandals could still have arisen even if origin labelling had been mandatory at that time in the relation to the food in question." said EU Commissioner for Environment Janez Potočnik.
The food sector is the second largest in the EU, employing over 48 million people with a turnover of around €750 billion a year.